Lights, Camera, Action: U of T!
Our Student Contributors
Toronto has often been described as one of the defining cultural and entertainment hubs of Canada, known for its ability to stand in New York and Chicago without the high price tags attached to those actual locations. “Hollywood North” as they call it, and fittingly so, considering the recent surge in blockbuster productions choosing to shoot in Toronto.
Lucky for us, that little trend has resulted in the University of Toronto itself becoming something of a hotspot for both major and independent productions, with its striking architecture capturing the attention of filmmakers from all over the world.
Now, I don’t want to make it seem like on any given day you’ll be able to seek out the next cinematic triumph or colossal cash-guzzler as it films in the building or classroom next to you – even in Los Angeles that’d be an unrealistic expectation to have. But, you’d be surprised at what you might stumble upon on campus or recognize on screen as time goes by.
Like two years ago, when my friends and I found ourselves stuck in one of UTSC’s parking lots, blocked off by what we identified as trailers typically found on a film set. No biggie, it was probably just one of those elaborate student films, right? Maybe if we checked Twitter a little sooner we could’ve caught a glimpse of Jake Gyllenhaal filming Enemy, a film from acclaimed Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies) that only just premiered at TIFF 2013.
Or like that time when, halfway through my incredibly forced marathon session of the recent Hannibal television series, I realized that UTSC’s Management Wing and Science Wing were collectively standing in for the FBI Academy. THE FBI ACADEMY!
And yet, that still doesn’t compare to some of the grander set pieces that U of T has portrayed over the years. Take 2012’s Total Recall, for instance, in which UTSC’s Meeting Place was transformed into a futuristic train station, or Resident Evil: Afterlife, where the exterior of Robarts Library was digitally manipulated to resemble a post-apocalyptic prison surrounded by hordes of the undead.
On a smaller scale, many who grew up with the film aren’t likely to forget Mean Girls’ math competition sequence, which actually took place inside Convocation Hall. It wouldn’t be the first time U of T stood in for other schools; Harold and Kumar found themselves kicked off the grounds of Knox College (or rather, “Princeton University) in the first installment of their popular franchise, in stark contrast to Good Will Hunting’s titular protagonist, whose time at MIT was filmed almost entirely at St. George colleges.
But Good Will Hunting wasn’t the only classic with deep ties to the University of Toronto; 23 years prior, Black Christmas shocked audiences as a group of sorority sisters were stalked and hunted by a mysterious assailant through the corridors of Annesley Hall. The horror film is often cited as the original “slasher film”, it’s impact and influence spanning generations to this very day.
Now I don’t know about you, but I feel oddly proud to attend an institution with such rich ties to cinema, and as Toronto’s film market continues to grow, so will U of T’s potential for a larger screen presence. It sure as heck adds an extra spring to my step as I roam the campus, and I can’t wait to see how it’s transformed next.